Article Highlights

  • Asia ex-Japan rises 0.2 pct; Nikkei little changed
  • Oil futures rise after U.S. crude hit lowest level since August
  • U.S. yield curve flattest in almost a decade on hawkish Fed
  • Sterling gains as BOE chief economist signals rate hike vote
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Asian stocks advanced on Thursday as oil prices inched up after hitting a 10-month low overnight on concerns over a supply glut and falling demand, dragging U.S. and European shares lower.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.2 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei and South Korea’s KOSPI were flat, while Australian shares rose0.4 percent.

Crude oil crept up from multi-month lows hit on Wednesday on concerns over growing U.S. production and reduced Chinese refinery activity.

“The time for contrarian trades in oil is fast approaching, but I would want to see some stability in price and the technicals start to become more convincing,” said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne.

U.S. crude futures rose 0.3 percent or 13 cents to $42.66 a barrel. They closed down 1.6 percent on Wednesday after touching their lowest level since August.

Global benchmark Brent climbed 0.2 percent or one cent to $44.92. It closed down 2.6 percent on Wednesday after touching a seven-month low.

The resulting decline in oil stocks hit stocks in Europe and on Wall Street overnight.

Britain’s FTSE, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 closed between 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent lower.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.3 percent, while the S&P 500 was slightly lower. Nasdaq closed up 0.7 percent, lifted by biotech stocks.

Financial stocks also contributed to losses on Wall Street, driven lower by a drop in the Treasury yield curve to its flattest in almost a decade, as investors tried to reconcile a hawkish Federal Reserve with deteriorating inflation measures.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer suggested they are concerned less about raising rates too fast or too high than about keeping them too low for too long.

“I think the market may be pricing in a little higher odds of another rate hike before the end of the year, and that is helping drive some of the flattening,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest rate strategist at TD Securities in New York.

The yield curve between five-year notes and 30-year bonds flattened to as low as 95.20 basis points, the narrowest since December 2007, on Wednesday and again early on Thursday.

The dollar was marginally lower on Thursday. The dollar index was at 97.523, following Wednesday’s 0.2 percent loss.

The greenback bought 111.41 yen.

Sterling retained Wednesday’s 0.3 percent gain to trade at $1.268 early on Thursday after the Bank of England’s chief economist said he was likely to vote for an interest rate hike this year. Until now, he has been seen as largely supportive of keeping rates low.

The euro was flat at $1.117, holding on to Wednesday’s 0.3 percent gain.

Spot gold rose 0.3 percent to $1,250.06 an ounce.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; additional reporting by Karen Brettell; Editing by Kim Coghill)